Voices from Beyond (1991)

I am an enormous fan of the bizarre and gory films of Lucio Fulci. To say his work is twisted is to seriously underrate just how strange and avant garde his films could be. They are often incoherent, with a dreamlike haze that quickly turns into nightmares. Unfortunately, 1991’s Voices from Beyond was one of the final films Fulci ever worked on, and it suffers from both a lack of funds and a bitterness that became apparent at the roll of the final credits. But it still has touches of the old spark despite the problems he was facing over the use of his name, his diabetes, and his money troubles.

Voices from Beyond starts with the death of rich Giorgio Mainardi, whose house is full of deceit; his father is an invalid whose wife hates everyone and only wants money, his stepbrother is a cruel worm of a man, his wife is sleeping with said stepbrother, his son is actually not his, and he’s also having his own affair with a high-value prostitute. He’s not a nice man in his own right. But there is one person he cares about: his daughter, Rosie. After Giorgio’s death, his spirit entreats Rosie to investigate his death, but she must do it before his body fully decomposes. At night, he haunts the dreams of all those in the house.

Most of this is pretty cut-and-dry. The way the murder was committed is both sick and inventive; I’m glad Fulci got to use his giallo background for some great effect. But where Fulci’s work in gore and horror really bears out is in the death of Giorgio, his autopsy, his rotting corpse, and in the nightmares he sends to people. Yep, those nightmares include cheap gore, child murder, and even zombies. It’s obvious when you watch these scenes that they’re low budget, but they still remind you exactly who was sitting in the director’s chair. There is also a fair bit of nudity and sex, lending the film a sense of sleaze that keeps it from feeling entirely generic. Oh, and if you’ve forgotten, Fulci had a thing about eyeball gore; he literally cuts up a few in a plate of eggs during one nightmare sequence. Nice.

Unfortunately, when Fulci isn’t giving into the facets of his career that he’s known for, the movie just kind of limps on. I was shocked to pause it at one point and discover I was already 3/4 of the way through; I felt like nothing had happened and I had only just gotten started.

Now, I think it’s important to consider this is a story of a bad man’s ghost who uses someone he deeply cares about to understand just who really cares about him, because the movie ends with a note: “this film is dedicated to my few real friends, in particular to clive barker and claudio carabba” and signed by Fulci. He only directed one other movie that year, Door to Silence, and then died alone in a small apartment in 1996 from diabetes complications. In the last years of his life, he was unhappy, poor, and in bad health. While Fulci was known to be difficult to work with, he also faced considerable trials during his life, such as the death of his wife and then his daughter being paralyzed in the early 1970s. He received little recognition in his home country and was considered a hack by many critics who were meanwhile heaping praise on the likes of Dario Argento. He wasn’t even aware he had international fans until attending a Fangoria convention in the United States just two months before he died, where he found people lined up to meet him. Hopefully those fans brought him some small amount of solace.

If you’ve never experienced Fulci, don’t start here. Go back to his work in the 1970s to see what he could do. Once you’ve gotten a feel for him, then go watch Voices from Beyond and think of the man behind it. It’s the best way to view it.

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